2011's Silliest Health and Well-being Ideas

It's that time of year again. Time to put aside the pursuit of better health through science and look at exceptionally ridiculous science and innovation achievements in food and nutrition - proven to improve health through the remedy of good cheer.

A better way to get drunk

Is your mouth too busy with other input or output? Danish urban folklore suggests an alcoholic footbath is another way to get tipsy. Maybe that was the drunken excuse winemakers of ancient times - who regularly stomped grapes with their feet as part of their process - gave for their constant intoxication.

Three researchers put this legend to the test by submerging their feet in laundry tub full of vodka for 3 hours while measuring their blood-alcohol levels every 30 minutes. The study was published in the British Medical Journal.

Unsurprisingly, not much happened to their blood alcohol levels. On the other hand "self confidence and urge to speak increased slightly at the start of the study, probably due to the setup". The sober conclusion: feet are impenetrable to the alcohol component of vodka.

But then again, if you're trying to absorb alcohol through your feet, you've probably had too much already.

Loosing weight through fertility treatment

The Wild West of the diet industry has many advances each year, many of them bizarre, deceitful and uncannily contagious.

Here's the new ploy for shedding weight: The hCG diet combines a 500-calorie-a-day diet with daily injections of the hCG hormone. hCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin) is naturally produced by the embryo during early pregnancy, and is used as a drug in order to induce ovulation.

It was suggested, many years ago, that hCG not only suppresses appetite, but also mobilizes fat - creating a more attractive body shape - and brings about a sense of well-being.

The hCG diet is becoming the latest rage. Since the hCG injections require a prescription, many homeopathic forms of hCG including oral drops, pellets and sprays with weight-loss claims have appeared in the market.

So does it work? Well, a 500-calorie-a-day diet will result in - what many experts suggest is unhealthy - weight loss, if you can maintain it. A meta- analysis concluded that there is no scientific evidence that HCG helps the regimen.

And if you don't mind daily injections and the $1000-per-month price tag here's the huge downside to consider: The side effects of hCG injections include increased tendency for blood clots, which could cause pulmonary emboli. Which could kill you.

Nowadays, whenever I hear about a young, apparently healthy, non-pregnant person suffering from a pulmonary embolism, I wonder.

There are quite a few medications and disease states that affect appetite, and I wonder which one will be the next new wonder drug for weight-loss. No, I'm not going to suggest which drugs come to mind when a doctor thinks of the differential diagnosis of loss of appetite - I want nothing to do with the next fad.

Wasabi, not just with sushi

Each year, I excitedly await the Ig Nobel awards. The ceremony, held at Harvard University, spoofs the Nobel prizes and is presided over by real Nobel winners.

A group of Japanese researchers won the Chemistry Ig Nobel for their lifesaving horseradish-based alarm system. After trying hundreds of odors, including rotten eggs, they determined that inhalation of air-diluted wasabi is the ideal wake up call.

If you're aiming for the coveted Ig Nobel and don't have much lab experience here's a route you might want to consider. The math prize this year was awarded to the end-of-the-world predictors for their fine calculations. Among them: Dorothy Martin (who predicted the world would end in 1954), Pat Robertson (who predicted the world would end in 1982), Elizabeth Clare Prophet (who predicted the world would end in 1990), and Harold Camping (who predicted the world would end on September 6, 1994 and later predicted that the world will end on October 21, 2011).

Preventing kiss-borne illness

cupcake and bacon floss

Who said brushed teeth should smell fresh and clean? After completing your ritual brushing consider reintroducing the flavors you washed away with innovative floss. Already on the market: bacon floss, frosted cupcake floss, as well as pickle flavor.

But what about almighty garlic, the aroma famous for preventing kiss-borne disease?

I hope we'll see that in 2012.

Happy holidays,

Dr. Ayala

To read my previous year's notable silly science choices see here and here.

Read more from Dr. Ayala at http://herbalwater.typepad.com

Follow Dr. Ayala on Twitter